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Q: You recently offered suggestions for a reader whose cat knocks things off shelves. Would you please share the tried-and-true trick that has worked for my family?

We taught our cats to stay off the kitchen counter by putting double-sided tape on the counter. (Actually, we set cardboard over the counter and put the tape on that so we didn't have to clean up the sticky remains.)

When the cat jumped on the counter, she was horrified that her paws stuck. She jumped down, thoroughly cleaned herself and hasn't been back up since.

For cats who want to knock things off using their paws, we have taped balloons to shelves. When the sharp claws hit the balloons, it scares the cat into next week! This trick also works for dogs who like to steal things off tables -- they burst the balloon in their mouths and it scares them. -- V.P., via e-mail

A: Double-sided tape does indeed work wonderfully, since cats loathe the sensation of having their paws sticking to any surface. The tape also works to discourage cats from clawing the corners of chairs and couches. You can find double-sided tape in any home-supply store, or look in pet-supply stores, catalogs and at Web sites for Sticky Paws, ready-made strips that do the same thing.

I haven't had quite the luck you have had with balloons, though, either with shelf-climbing cats or counter-cruising dogs. But I wouldn't discourage anyone from trying this inexpensive deterrent.

You can also try mousetraps, set without bait and placed under a single sheet of newspaper to protect the animal. When the animal trips the trap by walking nearby, it leaps into the air with a frightening "snap!" that discourages a repeat visit.

Still, I wouldn't trust any training method to protect your most valuable pieces, because accidents do happen. Kids and pets break things, that's a given, and the best way to protect your special pieces is by putting them in a place that's safe from harm -- either behind the doors of glass-fronted cabinets or in another room with the door shut.

In addition to this syndicated column on pet advice, a locally written column is often prepared as a public service by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society. Send questions to Pets, P.O. Box 1252, Buffalo, N.Y. 14205 or to the Web site at Sorry, personal replies cannot be provided.